When Mother Nature Does Stupid Things…

You know what is a terrible concept?  Vining cacti.  Yes, let’s make a plant covered in spines and have it climb over EVERYTHING.   The particular plant I’m whining about (because it’s my blog and I can whine if I want to) is Pereskia aculeata.  Thankfully it’s not a rambunctious vine (unlike the passionvine it is getting tangled up with) but it is still clearly a vine and not quite so clearly a cactus.  For some reason I feel compelled to tell you how I grow this as a houseplant (in case you too decide that you need a cactus vine).

I think I’m going to have to keep an eye on this one…it seems like it could be a real pain if I let it get out of control.  On the plus side it IS really easy to grow.  They’re a tropical cactus so they need a bit more water than “traditional” cacti but other than that they seem to be pretty similar in care.  Here’s how I’ve been growing mine:

Light: It sits in an east window.  When I say it is in the east window I really mean that it’s on a table about 1.5 feet away with a wall of other plants in front of it (as you can kind of tell from the picture above).  Since it’s a vine it is kind of doing its own thing about growing around all the other plants to find a good source of light.  I’m guessing if you put it in a sunnier spot you’ll have a much more compact plant.

Water: I don’t water it too much.  I wait for the soil to get good and dry and the leaves to lose a bit of their sheen.  So far it’s been about 2 weeks between waterings.  If you have a younger, cutting grown plant you might want to water more frequently until it has a chance to establish itself.

Soil:  I admittedly have no clue what this plant wants for an ideal soil.  I’ve got it growing in generic potting soil from the garden center and it’s doing great.  I’m guessing that lighter and well draining is better than heavy and slow to drain (because really that’s the case for most houseplants).

Fertilizer: I feed it once a month.  I really don’t WANT to encourage vast amounts of growth.

Other stuff:  It does get a nice white flower and orange fruits (mine has not though).  My particular plant has a really nice shapely trunk but I’ve never seen another one with a trunk like this so I’m not sure if I just have an old plant or I just haven’t seen very many in general (which is definitely true).

I can’t say I’d recommend this plant for EVERYONE just because if it’s weird growth habit but if you’re in the market for strange plants I’d say give this one a shot.  If nothing else it’s a conversation piece!


EDIT:  Don’t get me wrong, I actually really really love this plant.  I just find the concept of a viney cactus to be quite unnecessary (which of course meant it was totally necessary to go into my collection).

8 thoughts on “When Mother Nature Does Stupid Things…

  1. What? No. Pereskias are wonderful. I don’t know how I got by before I had one. (Which is now six.)

    Mine are all under artificial lights, and . . . well, yeah, they outgrow their spots pretty quickly (which is how I wound up with six), but P. aculeata ‘Godseffiana’ is pretty — hot pink new growth, maturing to mustard yellow above and bright pink undersides, and they do stay more compact under the lights. (Bigger leaves, too.) Who cares if it’s covered in spines and yearns to be 30 feet long?

    I’m exaggerating a bit, but I really do like it.

    • I really like mine too…it just don’t like when I go to move something and it turns out the Pereskia has grown 2 feet in the last week and now my arm has slash marks from the spines. I wish I had ‘Godseffiana’, but mine is just a straight up species. I didget it from the Garfield Park Conservatory’s “Our back houses were obliterated by hail so now we have to sell everything before it freezes” sale so at least it has a fun bit of history behind it. I think this spring I’m going to move it outside, cut it back a bit and hope for the best.

  2. I have huge issues with cacti. For some reason if I end up within 10ft of them I somehow get thorns in my body. I really wanted to try growing some Dragon Fruit from seed but I feel like that’s an extremely bad idea. Good luck!

    • Dragon fruit ARE a terrible idea. They’re another vining cactus and they get absolutely HUGE. I’ve grown them before, they’re really easy but they take up a ton of space.

  3. Haha. I just started dragon fruit this week. oops. They were a bonus gift with purchase of psudolithos, lithos and conophytum seeds I bought. They have not germinated yet. they can’t get too big to quick if I just started from seed right?

    I have a question. If I was over excited and an idiot and started my psudolithos seeds in a cheap cacuts mix (with lots of wood chips) as opposed to a low organic fast draining soil as recommended can I move my little seediling or will that just kill them? I only tried two and have more to play with if this does not work out.

    • Dragon fruit is actually a pretty fun plant if you have space, but like I said, they can be a terrible idea if you don’t. I had one for a while until my mom left it outside all winter while I was in PA. They’re just really really fast growing and get huge in a hurry if you let them. You can always break off segments and use them for grafting and what not. If you get it to bloom the blooms are spectacular and totally worth it. If you’ve ever grown/are familiar with Epiphyllum they’re kind of like that in habit.

      As for the Pseudolithos, I’ve never grown them personally, nor have I had luck with mesembs in general, but I do know they need exceedingly well drained soil. I think it’d be worth the risk to move them because they’ll probably rot before they can get any decent size. You could always move one and see how that works out? One of the blogs I read, Stupid Garden Plants has recently started growing them, he might have some first hand advice for you if you so desire.

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